Category:  Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains)

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Pasta with Chickpeas (Pasta e ceci)

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On February 25, 2017 0 Comments

For the Italian cook, food ingredients from a working kitchen are never wasted or thrown out. While growing up, I watched my Nonna use whatever she found in her pantry – a pasta package that was partially used. She’d break up raw spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine into small pieces. After cooking the broken pasta, she combined it with chickpeas and tomato sauce. We called this comfort food pasta e ceci.

You can make this in minutes and call it Pasta with Chick Peas! If you want to feel like you’re standing on the Italian peninsula, then combine a few long pasta varieties (in leftover packages) and cook them all together in one pot.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

1 pound spaghetti, linguine or fettuccine, broken into 3/4 to 1-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon salt
One 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzos), drained, rinsed & drained again
2 to 3 cups pre-made tomato sauce

1. Bring a 4 to 6-quart saucepot of water to a boil.

2. Add the pasta and salt to the boiling water.

3. Cook the pasta according to package directions or until it is al dente (crunchy-tender), about 8 to 10 minutes.

4. When pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander.

5. Add the pasta back to the sauce pot; stir in 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce and the drained chickpeas.

6. Stir and heat through.

7. Serve in individual bowls. Ask guests to add grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese to their pasta with chickpeas.

Note: Enjoy this dish with a favorite Chardonnay (white) or Chianti (red) wine.
Text and Photograph ©2017 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pappardelle with Meatballs

In Meats, Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On August 7, 2016 0 Comments

On weekends, I like to go back to my southern Italian roots. For example, today I was craving a good dish of pasta with traditional tomato sauce and meatballs.

Yes, you have to make the tomato sauce from scratch, prepare the meatballs separately and then combine the two together. But no worries – the recipe is fast, neat and healthy. I broil the meatballs instead of frying them.

The best part is that leftover meatballs and sauce keep up to 5 days, refrigerated. Buon Appetito!

Tomato Sauce Prep time: 20 minutes (while meatballs are broiling)
Meatball Prep time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

Tomato Sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium brown or white onion, peeled and finely chopped
One 28-ounce can Muir Glen Organic® Whole Peeled Tomatoes
Dash freshly-grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves (optional)
Salt, to taste (start with 1 teaspoon)

Directions for Tomato Sauce:
1. In a 4-quart saucepot, heat the oil. When oil is hot but does not smoke, add the chopped onion.

2. Stir-fry the onion on medium-high heat for about 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is translucent.

3. Meanwhile, in a blender, purée the tomatoes.

4. When onion is translucent, stir in the puréed tomatoes.

5. Add the nutmeg (just a dash), the bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt.

6. Bring the tomato sauce to a boil.

7. When tomato sauce boils, immediately set heat on medium-low and cook/simmer for approximately 15 minutes. During this time, you can start the meatballs (see below).

8. As the sauce cooks, stir occasionally.

9. After 15 minutes, taste the sauce. It should no longer taste raw. Adjust salt level, if needed.

Meatball Ingredients:
1 to 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef or dark ground turkey (organic, preferred)
1 small brown or white onion, finely chopped in a food processor
1/3 cup finely chopped, fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Dash ground black pepper
Dash freshly-ground nutmeg (a tiny amount)
1 to 2 large eggs, beaten

Meatball Directions:
1. Using plastic cooks’ gloves or your bare hands, in a 5 to 6-quart glass or porcelain bowl, mix together all ingredients.

2. Set meat mixture aside and wash your hands very well (if you do not use gloves).

3. Prepare an 18 X 12-inch baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil. Oil the foil with a basting brush or with your hand. Set baking sheet aside.

4. Set a 2-cup bowl of cold water on counter. Dip your hands in the water so they are wet (this will prevent the meat from sticking to your hands).

5. Grab enough meat mixture to form a 2-1/2-inch ball and set it on oiled, lined baking sheet.

6. Repeat shaping the meatballs, wetting your hands in between every 2 to 3 meatballs. Continue this procedure until you have set all meatballs on baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart.

Broil the Meatballs & Add them to Tomato Sauce:
1. Set the top oven element to “broil” – make sure the top oven rack is set 6 to 7 inches below the broiling element.

2. Place the baking sheet with meatballs on the oven rack; broil the meatballs for approximately 8 to 9 minutes or until they look golden brown.

3. When meatballs have turned golden brown, using tongs, turn them over and broil the other side for 8 to 9 minutes.

4. When the meatballs have turned golden brown, take one at a time with tongs and gently drop it in simmering tomato sauce.

5. At this point, simmer the sauce with meatballs for an additional 10 minutes.

Ingredients for the Pappardelle:
1 pound pappardelle or other pasta variety
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese (garnish)

Directions for Pappardalle:
1. Bring a 6-quart sauce pot of water to a boil.

2. When water boils, add the pappardelle and salt to the water.

3. Cook pappardelle for 9 to 10 minutes or until it is “al dente” (crunchy-tender).

4. Drain the pappardelle in a colander.

5. Return the pappardelle to the sauce pot and add 3 to 4 ladles of tomato sauce. Stir with tongs.

6. Divide the pappardelle among 4 to 6 pasta bowls or dinner plates.

7. Add 1 or 2 meatballs to each serving.

8. Serve immediately and ask guests to add a sprinkle of cheese, if desired.

Wine Pairing: Chianti, Cabernet Sauvignon (reds) or chilled Chardonnay (white)
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Saffron Rice with Honey

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On May 19, 2016 0 Comments

This delicious rice gets its yellowish hue from saffron and its slightly-sweet flavor from honey. I think this dish lies somewhere between Paella and the exquisite rice found in Persian cuisine.

The only problem is that once you taste this Saffron Rice with Honey, you’ll go over your limits. But don’t take my word for it – just make it and see for yourself!

Prep time: 25 to 30 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium brown or white onion, finely chopped
1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed under cold water and drained
1-1⁄2 cups chicken broth
3⁄4 to 1 cup cold water
0.375 grams ground Saffron
3⁄4 to 1 teaspoon salt
Dash ground cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons honey or a little more


1. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil.

2. Add the chopped onion and stir-fry on medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

3. When onion is golden brown, add the rice.

4. Stir-fry the rice and onion for 2 to 3 minutes.

5. After 2 to 3 minutes, add 1-1/2 cups chicken broth and 3⁄4 cup cold water, the saffron, salt, cinnamon and honey.

6. Immediately set heat on low, cover the rice and bring it to a boil.

7. When rice comes to a boil, stir it ONCE.

8. Cover the rice again and cook on the lowest heat setting for 10 minutes.

9. After 10 minutes, using a spoon, taste rice from center of skillet.

10. If rice is a little raw and dry, add the remaining 1⁄4 cup water, cover and cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes.

11. After 3 to 4 minutes, taste rice again – if it is too firm, add 1 to 2 tablespoons more water.

12. At this point, cook rice for 1 to 2 more minutes.

13. After 1 to 2 minutes, taste rice (it should be tender but not overcooked). If needed, add a little more honey, to taste.

14. If rice is done, set skillet aside on a cold burner and cover the rice.

15. Let rice stand 4 to 5 minutes.

16. After 4 to 5 minutes, serve rice as a side dish to meat, poultry, fish or as part of a vegetarian meal.
Text & Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pasta & Peas (Pasta e piselli)

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On April 28, 2016 0 Comments

Peas are in season and they’re bursting with flavor. Here’s a childhood pasta recipe from Italy. It’s simple, fast and delicious with Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

2 vine-ripened tomatoes
1 pound short pasta variety (this recipe uses trofie)
1 cup fresh peas
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (adjust, per individual taste)
Grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

1. Bring a 3 or 4-quart sauce pot filled with water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, cut tomatoes in half, remove and discard pulp.

3. Chop tomatoes into 1/4-inch cubes; set aside in a 3 to 4-quart glass or porcelain bowl.

4. When water boils, add the pasta and, using a wooden spoon, stir it once.

5. Add salt to the pasta and cook pasta for 8 to 10 minutes or until it is al dente or crunchy-tender.

6. During last 1 to 2 minutes of the pasta boil, add the peas.

7. After 1 to 2 minutes, drain the pasta and peas in a colander.

8. Add the drained pasta and peas to the chopped tomatoes in bowl.

9. Stir in the olive oil and salt. Taste and adjust oil and salt level, to taste.

10. Ask guests to add some grated cheese to their individual pasta bowls.
Text and Photograph ©2016 Nancy DeLucia Real

Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On November 17, 2015 0 Comments

Thanksgiving is about the Fall harvest – its abundance and our gratitude. Typical vegetables used for this great feast are cranberries, nuts, potatoes, yams, pumpkin and squash.

Most of us incorporate these food ingredients into the dishes from our heritage. Many of you already know that we Italians begin a meal with pasta. And so, on Turkey Day, my first course will be Butternut Squash and Mint Fusilli. It’s fresh, fast and easy. Buon Appetito to all of you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6

4 cups chopped butternut squash (cut into 3/4-inch cubes)
3 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 pound fusilli pasta (this can be substituted with another variety of short pasta)
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons slivered, fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Prepare the Butternut Squash:
1. Place the butternut squash cubes in a 2-quart saucepot; cover with water.

2. Cover the sauce pot and bring the squash to a boil.

3. Boil the squash for 3 to 5 minutes or until it is crunchy-tender when pierced with a fork.

4. Drain the squash and transfer it to a glass or porcelain bowl to cool for about 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes, in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil.

6. When oil is hot (but not smoking), add the cubed butternut squash and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes.

7. After 3 to 4 minutes, toss in the crushed garlic and cook for 1 more minute; set the skillet with the squash aside.

Boil & Assemble the Pasta:
1. Meanwhile, bring a 4 to 5-quart sauce pot of water to a boil.

2. When water boils, add 3/4 teaspoon salt to the water and the fusilli pasta.

3. Cook the fusilli pasta for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta is al dente or crunchy-tender.

4. As the pasta cooks, warm up the butternut squash in skillet on moderate to low heat.

5. After 8 to 10 minutes, drain the fusilli pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the boiling liquid.

6. Toss the drained fusilli pasta into the butternut squash in skillet; add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid and toss to warm through.

7. When pasta and butternut squash are warmed through, taste and add more salt (if needed) and a dash of ground black pepper.

8. Divide the pasta among 4 to 6 bowls and garnish with slivered mint leaves.

9. Ask guests to add some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese to their Butternut Squash & Mint Fusilli.
White Wine Pairing: chilled Fiano di Avellino or Pinot Grigio.
Text and Photograph ©2015 Nancy DeLucia Real